If you’re planning on starting a new business in 2021 then there a variety of things to consider. Until 2020 some of these subjects have never even been a musing before, but now they can be an essential part of your business plan. This article will highlight many of the standard practices of planning and starting a new business, as well as some of the newest strategies that need to be implemented in order to have a successful business in 2021 and beyond.
So, you’ve decided to test the waters of entrepreneurship. It’s cold and choppy, but it can also be a fun and rewarding ride if you can get a handle on things.
What Do You Do?
The first thing you have to do is decide is what it is that you exactly do. In some situations it may be be very cut and dry, and for others the answer may be more complex. For example, if you’re a plumber and want to offer residential plumbing services then your offering is pretty clear. However, if you’re a graphic designer and want to start a graphic design business then what you offer and who you offer it to can be more of a complex decision. You might have to ask yourself if there is a particular niche that you can serve, or if there is something that you specialize in that will help you stand out amongst your competition.
Who Do You Do It For?
Make a list of all the services or products that you plan to offer, how you plan to price them and, generally speaking, who you plan to sell them to. Once this is clear, you have to define your most likely customer. With this step you are basically creating a profile of your ideal customer’s characteristics. Elements to consider are age, income, sex, relationship status, religious affiliation, political affiliation, hobbies, interests, etc. When you have created this profile you will be able to more easily speak their language, communicate with them, and ultimately, sell to them.
This profile can help to eliminate wasteful ad spend on venues and platforms that are irrelevant. For example, if you’ve established that your most likely customer is a 20-something male that enjoys mixed martial arts- then advertising on a platform like Pinterest might not be a wise allocation of advertising dollars. However, if your ideal customer is a 40-something female with 2 kids and a cat then something like Pinterest might be a gold mine for you. More on this later.
What Do You Look Like?
Now that you have a solid idea on what you are marketing and who you are marketing it towards it is time develop your brand.
Think of branding this way- if your business were a human skeleton, then your brand would be your skin, hair, voice, height, clothing, the way you walk and the way way you talk. Essentially it’s a personality. People often limit their understanding of a brand to it’s visual elements, but a fully developed brand is much deeper than that. The colors you choose are just as essential as the actual behaviors you practice as a business. For example, do you have a very conservative and professional attitude when you answer the phones, or in the way you communicate in your advertising collateral; or are you more friendly and casual? Either approach is fine, so long as it it consistent across all of your public interaction and makes sense for your business.
Because everything about your business will be anchored to your brand it is important to invest wisely when it comes to your brand’s development. As they say, ‘buy it nice, or buy it twice!’ If you consider the money you spend on developing a brand as an unfortunate but necessary expense and skimp in this stage you will be sorry in the long term. You need to view this as one of the most crucial investments in the foundation of your business and the big picture success that you will have for it’s lifespan. Simply hiring a cheap logo designer form a crowdsource site rather than an experienced professional brand designer who has expertise in the “big picture” aspect of what branding is all about is the wrong move for someone who is serious about being in business.
At or near this point in your process is the time to legalize your business. This simply means becoming a legal entity. There are a number of reasons that you want to become an official entity in the eyes of the Government, but the biggest reason is that you need to protect yourself. We live in a society where people will sue for almost anything. You need to shield yourself and your assets by either becoming a C-Corporation, S- Corporation, or Limited Liability Company. There are many services that can help guide you through this process fairly easily and inexpensively.
A few resources are:
Once you have decided which legal entity you will use to form your business and you have completed all the necessary paperwork as required by local and federal agencies, you can open up your business checking account and your merchant accounts. Try to find a free checking account or one that at least has low minimum deposit requirements so that you aren’t paying unnecessary fees every month. Having an established account means that you can now use the account to make purchases in the name of the business which is very important for tax purposes. Having a merchant account allows you to process credit card payments made by your customers. Usually they take a small transaction fee. For example, PayPal, one of the most reputable companies of this sort, usually takes 2.9% + $0.30 per each U.S. based dollar transaction. A web search for merchant accounts will show you all of your options. Choose what is right for your business based on the features that they offer.
The next step is to start acquiring all of the social media accounts and URL(s) for your brand. During the planning of your branding you should be checking to see the availability of all these properties before you make your final decision on the business name. Fortunately there is a neat service that you can find at www.namecheckr.com. Here you can enter your potential brand name ideas and check for their availability across several online platforms.
You may not need or use all of the properties, but it is a good idea to claim them so that you can have them available should you find that marketing in these channels becomes something that you want to do. At the very least it would be wise to get the basics which include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and of course your .com URL for your website. URLs or domain names are available for purchase through a domain registrar. These same companies usually provide web hosting services as well.
Some of the most popular and reputable options include:
Build Your Website
Yes, for a new business a website is now absolutely mandatory. Some businesses have been able to skate by without one, but if 2020 has taught us anything- we are in a very new landscape. Some brick-and-mortar businesses were able to get away without having much of an online presence, but in this age of lockdowns- having a website can be the difference between staying profitable or going out of business.
Many entrepreneurs have been able to survive throughout the pandemic crisis by offering some of their in person services online through teleconferencing. Businesses that sell physical products have also been able to maintain some level of sales by integrating their websites with online shopping capabilities. These features can turn your website from a glorified business card into a highly functional engagement and transactional platform. Chances are that businesses that had previously ignored the ecommerce aspect of their businesses will find this to be a great new sales channel that they will find fruitful long after the pandemic is over.
There are so many options when it comes to getting a website up and running. There are drag and drop editors where you build your website and shop yourself. These include platforms like:
The aforementioned are entry level website solutions that can help you quickly get off the ground. The only problem with these is that they aren’t as customizable as other options like a WordPress site, and you have to build it yourself. At the other end of the spectrum is a completely custom website built from scratch. This can cost big bucks and might be a bit of overkill. The best course of action is to hire a design agency to build your business a WordPress based website using a pro template. This is where you will get the most bang for your buck. Websites like Envato.com offer hundreds of professional templates pre-built and ready to customize to accommodate whatever business or niche you might be in. The great thing about a WordPress site is that once you have the framework built by your designer it isn’t too hard to take the keys and start working on it yourself.
Everything is ready. Your website is up and running. Your social media accounts have been claimed. Your logo graces your new business card. Your accounts have been set up- and you await the first sale.
The old saying, “If you build it, they will come.” is a bit of wishful thinking in this modern day of the internet. With billions of web pages in existence it is very difficult to get noticed.
This is the hardest part of business- getting noticed and then getting people to buy. You might have the best product and or service in the world, but if nobody knows about you- it just doesn’t matter. Unless you have a huge advertising budget it is extremely hard to get any profitable traction at first, but that doesn’t mean that the ad dollars you spend are being wasted. If you consider the lifetime value of your customers, you can be building a foundation that will be profitable down the road.
For example, let’s say an ad campaign on Facebook costs you $1000 and you get 4 customers who spend $50 at your store, you ostensibly lost $800. This is not the case, however. Let’s say these customers are impressed with your service and or product so much so that they become repeat customers, making 5 purchases a year that average $50. At this rate the initial campaign was paid for. But this is not all that is happening here. You are starting to develop a following that will recommend your business to others.
Over time, as your following slowly grows and you learn what works and what doesn’t work, your return on your advertising investments will increase and you will get more bang for your buck on each advertising dollar. This is why the consumer experience you provide is crucial. You need to go above and beyond in order to be valued and remembered so that not only your customers return- they return with with friends and family.
Pay Per Click Search Advertising
Pay Per Click or PPC search advertising is a form of advertising that involves placing ads with a search engine so that a query for the keywords of your choice will trigger your ads. You will be charged when someone clicks on that ad. The costs can vary greatly depending on how much competition there is for a particular keyword. In this scenario you will be writing a few lines of copy in order to entice people who are searching for a specific term to click on your ad. The most popular platform for this is Google Ads. You’ll notice that if you do a Google search you’ll see a group of ads at the top of the results that are labeled as such.
Social Media Ads
Most social media platforms provide paid advertising options. Facebook, for example can be a great way to advertise to new customers who might be interested in what you have to offer. The great thing about advertising on social media is that the ads are shareable, and if you create an exceptionally interesting or engaging ad it could go viral. Another great feature about advertising with Facebook is that you can custom tailor your audiences to fit into the profiles that we discussed earlier. You can include such variables as age, income, sex, location, interests and much more.
Organic traffic refers to the visitors who reached your website via a search engine query. Search engines use algorithms to produce the most appropriate results for a user’s search. If your web page is optimized properly then you can get hits to your page for free instead of having to pay for a promoted listing. SEO or search engine optimization is the practice of honing the elements of your web page content in order to meet the criteria for a search engine to consider your page relative for a certain query. While the traffic is free, it is very difficult to rank your page for certain popular keywords.
A great indicator of the hard work you put into your brand, and towards your customer service efforts, is a referral of your business. People are not so quick to pass on referrals to others unless they are reasonably sure that their positive experience will be replicated. Customers will feel like they have a stake in whether you are able to satisfy their friends and family. Needless to say, treat these referrals like gold and make sure to show your appreciation for them. Free advertising deserves a reward. Make sure you follow up with those that have referred your business with a special thank you letter and a discount on a future product or service.
No, print is not dead. The internet is so super-saturated with advertisements and paid promotions that people put up a shield that blocks many of these efforts. A good way to slip behind someone’s defenses is to use a different medium. Print advertising, if done correctly, can be a great marketing channel for your business. If you’ve done your homework and understand who your customer is you will know what type of publications they will be reading. You can now laser focus your efforts on communicating with these potential customers.
Direct mail is a form of marketing that involves sending a physical piece of promotional material through the Postal Service to a home or business. Expertly designed postcards are a great way to inexpensively send your message to hundreds or thousands of potentials customers. There are many companies that can provide mailing lists according to the criteria of your choosing. Direct mail works best as a longer term campaign effort where you have a planned out series of advertisements over an extended period of time. You can slowly start building brand recognition while also alerting potential customers in your selected niche of your offers and specials. Mailing list providers include:
While this is by no means a full discourse on how to start a new business as many situations will be unique, it is a good place to start. Check back for more posts that drill down further into each of the topics discussed. Good luck with with starting your new business and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need our help with brand development, graphic design for your advertising efforts, or building a website.
Here at Promotion Lotion Creative Studios we can help you develop the logo, branding, website and advertising collateral for your new business. If you’d like to discuss your options sign up below and we’ll gladly reach out and help you get the ball rolling.